Business School? There's an App for That

Posted by: Louis Lavelle on October 12, 2009

By Anne VanderMey

The BlackBerry may still be the phone of choice for the MBA set, but anyone thinking it’s the only one in the running hasn’t clicked through the Apple App Store’s offerings lately.

The store, long the domain of the creative crowd, now has more than 100 applications at least tangentially related to the MBA, all primed for the business students’ phone. Among them, dozens of hand-held programs that promise to impart the entire wisdom of a full MBA course—usually for under $5. Also on offer: refreshers on entity structuring, several dictionaries of accounting and finance terms, a B-school application planner, and GMAT test prep.

The reputation of the businessman as a BlackBerry devotee has probably contributed to the relative paucity of business-friendly apps . For comparison, there are roughly 300 dedicated to calorie counting. But a few developers have found MBAs and their ilk to be a surprisingly receptive audience. For example, the Clear Admit MBA Planner, which sorts through schools’ application requirements and lists deadlines, had already sold dozens of copies at $3.99 a pop by this Wednesday, after being launched on Monday. The rate of sales at the outset, according to Clear Admit, has been “incredibly brisk,” though they declined to give exact numbers.

Ryan Kaminsky, who originally designed and created the app, is a programmer and a second-year MBA at the Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business (Duke Fuqua Full-Time MBA Profile). He decided to develop it after his own travails with the B-school application process–spending nights “waking up in a cold sweat” wondering if he had missed one of the B-school application due dates. Among several other features, the MBA Planner lists BusinessWeek’s top-30 schools’ deadlines in one place.

Kaminsky’s original worries about a limited customer base of MBA iPhone-users were quickly assuaged by the strong sales. The app even broke into the top 100 most popular business apps, reaching number 90 – if only for a few fleeting moments, he says. And there’s another benefit to an MBA clientele: their deep pockets. Kaminsky says he and Clear Admit haven’t ruled out raising the price on the app, which he says is on track for further improvements and took an entire summer to develop (“I’ve never worked so hard at anything in my life!”). Even at an elevated price, he notes, “This is less than a cup of coffee for them.”

But MBA Planner isn’t the most expensive of the ambitious B-schools products on the app market. The Pocket MBA, currently free, typically goes for $30 and purports to teach management, HR, accounting, finance and more. There are 13 chapters with accompanying text, flashcards and multiple choice exams. Another one, MBA Course, comes in 11 incarnations at $2.99 each, covering topics like entity structuring and affiliate marketing. Its description boasts that it will allow you to “beat your business peers and have a more enjoyable life” not to mention “dominate in business and boost your paychecks.” And then there’s also the Veritas Prep app, GMAT Practice Quiz, which offers sample test questions and diagnostics to help boost GMAT scores.

Some schools seem to be catching on, as well. The University of Rochester’s Simon Graduate School of Business (Simon Full-Time MBA Profile) launched its own iPhone and iPod touch application this summer, which appears to be targeted at prospective students. It hasn’t been updated in a while, but it offers some Simon School news, stats on the program, and even videos of lectures, though at the moment there’s only one, and it involves the business of beer. Only time will tell if the iPhone’s apps marketed to business school students will catch on more broadly, or if they can actually help market business schools like Simon. However, it’s worth noting that there’s an app for that.

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